Thursday, October 10, 2013

So Long, Country Bumpkin

Category:  News/Obituary

Cal Smith has died.  The country music star died today (10/10) in his home in Branson, Missouri.

Calvin Grant Shofner was born April 7, 1932 in Gans, Oklahoma.  Performing professionally as Cal Smith, he worked in California as a DJ and a member of the California Hayride after his service in the Army.  

Smith first gained national fame in the early 1960's when he joined Ernest Tubb's Texas Troubadours.  Smith played with the Texas Troubadours most of the 1960's along with another member who later went on to solo success, Jack Greene (who died earlier this year).  One of the most notorious stories of Smith's tenure with Tubb was the time Tubb, under the influence, threw Smith off the tour bus.  According to Ronnie Pugh's outstanding biography of Tubb, Smith left with his clothes and got into a friend's car. (A little while later, Greene was also kicked off the bus.  Both men were rehired as soon as Tubb calmed down/sobered up.)

While still playing with Tubb Smith began recording songs on the Kapp label.  His first major success was "Drinking Champagne" (later a hit again by George Strait).  He left Tubb and signed with Decca in 1970.  His cover of the Free Movement's "I've Found Someone of My Own" was his first top ten single.  Bill Anderson's "The Lord Knows I'm Drinking" became Smith's first #1 hit, in 1972.

Don Wayne's song "Country Bumpkin" became the signature song for Cal Smith in 1974.  The song went to #1 on the country charts and won two CMA awards (Single of the Year and Song of the Year).  It remained Smith's best-known song through the years, even though his third #1 song ("It's Time to Pay the Fiddler") actually stayed on the charts longer.

The chart success waned after other hits (including "Bleep You," written by the great Bobby Braddock), but Smith remained a popular performer on country package tours.  In the mid-1980's he considered himself semi-retired and moved to Branson with his wife.

A suitable epitaph can be found in Smith's best-known song:

So long, country bumpkin
The frost is gone now from the pumpkin
I've seen some sights and life's been somethin'
See you later, country bumpkin

Cal Smith was 81.

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